September 11th

I was thinking today about the September 11th attacks, ten years ago, in conjunction with conversations I’ve had with coworkers and friends from other nations and the actions of the United States in the world since 9/11.  And I’m honestly feeling a little down.

It isn’t the nanny-state or the false illusion of security here at home, or the atrocities abroad that have me down, it isn’t the neighbor and friends I have in my neighborhood who have recently returned from a 4th tour in Iraq, the sacrifices or the costs that the U.S. has incurred that have me down, it isn’t even the anti-American protests and claims that the U.S. has lost the war in Iraq and Afghanistan that have me down. 

It is a conversation I had while in college, back in 2005, that has me down; a conversation about freedom.

Today, I hear and think of all the tributes, I think of how the clergy and first responders were denied a place during the 9/11 commemoration in NYC.  I think of the billions of people around the world and countless people through all history who never had the chance of freedom; their lives full of toil and slavery to ideals, to ‘lords’ and ‘kings’, men, women, and children whose lives are worth nothing to their leaders, whose dreams were never mentioned, not even by themselves.  Dreams that probably only held a day with no threat to their lives by their neighbors, a warm bed in a dry home, and the food they’ve worked for on their own table.  I think of the utopian lectures upholding  true ‘meritocracy’, though by enforced theft of government upon death… the most ironic and sad discussions I’ve had to sit through.  I think of the NFL players who wanted to wear patriotic commemorative apparel even if they had to pay exorbitant fines.  I think of the richest nation in the world, the most productive populace in the world, and the most privileged people in the world…   and I see the  most criticized, the most maligned, and yet the  most faithful people.

Freedom?  What is it?  Well… freedom is the choice of a person or people to be ‘free’; free to make their own choices and receive the consequences.  Is America ‘free’?    To an extent.  You see, we don’t do a good job of letting people fail, and we do so on the backs of those who worked and chose not to.  We don’t allow a lot of choices simply because they keep others from making similar choices, like theft, murder, extortion, bribery, etc…   Yes, taking away someone’s property denies them freedom… because you are removing the consequence of their action; their reward.  It is theft.

But we don’t stop you from stealing, or, to an extent, any of the other choices, but we do impose consequences for those who do, as much as we can.  All of that aside, the point is that we also allow people the one choice we can’t take away, whether they want to be free, whether they will have freedom or not. 

This is the choice we provided Iraq, the choice we provided Afghanistan.  The choice, I believe, they didn’t understand. If they did, I weep for them. If not, I simply feel low.  Who has ‘won’ the battle in Iraq and Afghanistan?  The U.S. did, certainly. Why? Because we surely punished those who hurt us, (not a noble cause), and we did provide the opportunity of freedom.  Who ‘lost’ however?   The U.S. has.  Iraq has, Afghanistan has, the people of the middle east and the world have. 

The problem with ‘Freedom’ is also the virtue of ‘freedom’; it, by definition and nature, cannot be given.  It is impossible to grant ‘freedom’ to anyone. They must demand it, must fight for it. It must be paid for, and always has been paid for through all history, with blood, with treasure, with hope, with extreme toil and effort; with lives.

America has, to a great extent, tried to pay for others… but it cannot be so.  I don’t know if you can thrust the choice on anyone, or simply provide the opportunity to choose and have them choose freedom.  But I do know that most of the world’s people have never been offered that choice, never even wondered if they were capable of ruling themselves, and never had the power to create that choice on their own, or been taught to cheer as their trusted leaders remove the choice with promises they can never keep. 

America has proven that it is the most stable, industrious, happy, and prosperous structure of government known to man.  It is also the most generous.  When the world has a disaster, when an atrocity somewhere in the world is being committed, the world looks to the U.S.   Why?  It isn’t because we are the richest nation, nor is it because we are the strongest nation; the world looks to the U.S. because we come, we help.

Yet, our leaders have created an American Empire. Our influence spans the globe, intimidates nation, and earns the sharp criticism of people everywhere. All of Europe owes its sovereignty to the United States, but not their current problems.  Some of the criticism is valid, some is not. Some is generated by envy, and some is justified by hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, ironically enough, which only exists because we try to be better and try to push others to be better.  Truly, any honest scholar of history will be hard pressed to find a gentler world empire, a gentler world power.  But it isn’t enough.

Yet how to fix it?  Freedom?  It seems the only answer; let nations do as they will?  Let ‘freedom’ be demanded and blossom anew?  It is rare to the point of nonexistent that freedom spontaneously blossoms, and in history, it only has ever existed in western Civilization and Judeo-Christian nations.

‘Democracy’, however, exists in spades throughout the world; Saddam Hussein was ‘democratically’ elected time and time again, Iran with all its freedom ‘democratically’ elects the leaders which harshly punish any who speak against the ruling class, Venezuela, etc…  every nation the U.S. would look at and not consider ‘free’.   In that, and according to my definition of ‘freedom’, I include all socialist nations; if you can’t choose to fail, are you free?  If you can’t keep the work of your own hands, can’t choose what to do with what you make, the product of your own time and effort, are you free?   I say ‘no’.  No, France is not free. Canada is not free. England is not free, Australia is not free; disagree with me?  Go buy a handgun. Go buy a rifle.  In London, go try and buy a knife larger than six inches.  And America?  I don’t think we are fully ‘free’ anymore. To prove my point:  Don’t pay taxes on property that you already have legally purchased and own and have paid taxes on for years and years… and tell me who ‘owns’ your property.

Today, I am proud of America. We have our faults, sure; people are imperfect and people run the country. But America has proven, generation to generation, that freedom works. That a group of people can live together and work together and not kill each other under a free society… and even thrive. Thrive more than any other nation in history, and that they are the most charitable, caring, and giving. They are willing to champion the ‘little guy’, willing to sacrifice.  I am even proud that we have a society where you can choose not to be free; where you have to choose to not be free.

I think of those who stand.  I think of how the people stood taller after 9/11. The buildings were just buildings, but they were attacked because they were an icon, because they symbolized the success of freedom.  The buildings stood, sure, as much as any other building does.  The rescuers, the firemen, the police, the patriots who died at the Pentagon and in an empty field, they still stand, and stand larger than life. 

I feel low in my heart for those who have lost so much, for the cost to extend the chance of liberty, of true freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But I am proud of their sacrifice, proud to tears.  

Every generation must make the choice, every person make the choice of whether they will demand freedom, whether they will preserve it.  What will we all choose?  What will the people of Iraq and Afghanistan choose?  The signs are not good so far, but there is time.

But lose?  Free men never lose. They chose to be free, and no tyrant will rule them as long as they live. They can die, but in dying, as with the heroes of 9/11, they die for themselves, for others, and stand tall, taller than life.  They never lose. A choice for freedom has already conquered all else.  Rule is, and always will be, by consent of the governed.  Free men never lose, they conquer.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.